Millions of people worldwide get sick each year from improperly handled food and contaminated water. In fact, one of the most pressing concerns among international travelers is the risk of contracting a foodborne illness when dining abroad. Now, they can rely on Cocina Verify, an innovative new company that provides tourists and business travelers with reliable information about which restaurants outside of the U.S. are concerned with—and properly trained in— food safety protocols.

Restaurants featured on Cocina Verify have voluntarily chosen to have their water tested, all their employees trained in food safety, and their restaurants inspected, guided by U.S. FDA and California food safety code standards, working in concert with local regulations. This information helps consumers make more informed decisions about which restaurants to visit during their travels and which to avoid.

Cocina Verify’s certified food safety experts follow a three-step process to determine whether restaurants are following US food safety standards. They:

Test the restaurant’s water to determine whether it’s safe to drink

Train the restaurant’s employees about proper food safety protocols using the certified ServSafe food safety program

Audit the restaurant, using US-based inspectors, to ensure the restaurant is following US food safety standards.

Once the restaurant passes the water testing and inspection, and their staff completes ServSafe food safety training, they’ll be spotlighted on the Cocina Verify website.

The company, which just launched, will initially focus on Latin America, spotlighting restaurants in Panama, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Belize. Geographies will expand from there, including plans to bring the program to Southeast Asia in the near future.

“I traveled to Peru often, and repeatedly got sick from the food and water that I consumed there.  In seven trips, I became sick five times. After my third foodborne illness episode, I realized there had to be a better way for tourists to find restaurants that are concerned about – and trained in – food safety protocols, to help us decide which ones we should patronize and which we should avoid,” says Allan Daly, CEO and founder of Cocina Verify. “No guide existed, so I created Cocina Verify to help enhance consumers’ confidence and experiences when dining abroad.”

Cocina Verify differs from customer review sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp. Instead of peer reviews, the trainings, inspections and verification comes solely from Cocina Verify’s team of experienced, certified food safety professionals.

“Food safety isn’t about perfection—it’s about risk reduction,” Daly says. “Our mission is to increase consumers’ trust and confidence in their dining experiences abroad.  While we can’t guarantee that guests won’t get sick at verified restaurants, it’s about risk reduction, and making educated decisions based on which restaurants have passed stringent food safety requirements.”

In the United States, Canada, Western Europe, and Australia, governments have regulatory policies and enforcement programs in place to greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illness to the public. In many other countries, these regulations—and adequate enforcement of the regulations—don’t meet these high standards.

Cocina Verify is the first company that inspects, trains and verifies independent restaurants outside of the US, guided by the US FDA Food Code and California Food Code in concert with local regulations to ensure that these restaurants are meeting United States FDA food safety standards. While there are several companies that conduct audit and inspection programs for large resort chains, there is nothing like Cocina Verify in the marketplace.

The website is free for consumers to use, and restaurants are searchable by geography.  The responsive webpage means consumers can search restaurants on their computer, tablet or phone, making it convenient and accessible while traveling.

Restaurants pay for the inspections, water testing and training, but it’s not a “rubber stamp” that they become verified simply by paying a fee. They must pass the water test, inspection and employee training before they are featured on the Cocina Verify website.

Cocina Verify aims to be a partner in food safety for restaurants abroad, as well as a trusted resource for consumers.

Cocina Verify is a third-party restaurant training and inspection program that helps international restaurants implement U.S. food safety procedures and inspections, so that international travelers can dine out with an increased level of trust and confidence. 

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